Read A Deafening Silence In Heaven Online

Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski

Tags: #Remy Chandler

A Deafening Silence In Heaven (11 page)

The angel was staring at Remy.

“It would be a start, but—”

“Then that’s what we have to do,” Linda said assertively. “We have to get that back. You said that you’re a healer, so do something . . . anything to . . .”

The tears were back again, followed by the raging emotions of fear and grief. She pulled back on them, wrestling them under her control.

“I understand that you’re upset,” Assiel said. “But it isn’t a simple task like applying a salve, or ingesting a pill, or drinking a potion.”

She didn’t want to hear how difficult it would be to do something, she just wanted him to do it . . . do anything . . . try everything, to bring her Remy back to her.

“An angel’s essence is its connection to the force of life . . . the source of all things. Remy’s is missing, but there appears to be a connection of some sort, an umbilical cord if you like, trailing from him to someplace else.”

She thought about what he was saying.

“You’re saying his soul has left his body and gone elsewhere?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Is this something that happens? Is this common? Does an angel’s soul just . . . just . . . fly away sometimes?”

Assiel shook his head.

“I’ve never experienced such a thing before.”

She looked at her lover, her heart swelling with emotion. “Leave it to him, right? I guess he’s got a bit of a rep?”

“He most certainly does.”

“I’m guessing that with his essence—his soul—gone, his body really can’t survive, can it?”

“No, it can’t. The essence is needed or the body withers away.”

“How much time does he have?”

“It’s difficult to say,” the angel healer said. “I’m doing everything in my power to prolong his life, and—”

“Do that,” Linda interrupted forcefully. “Please—please keep doing that.”

The angel stared at her.

“Please,” she begged him.

And the angel closed his eyes, returning to what he’d been doing before.

CHAPTER
TEN

S
amson’s oldest son, Dante, saw the danger of it.

“You’re asking us to follow a leader who doesn’t exactly know where he’s leading us to,” the tall, haggard-looking man said, his anger and frustration obvious in his stance.

Baarabus considered the man’s statement briefly. “That just about sums it up,” the demon dog said, agreeing with the futility but seeing no legitimate alternative.

“That’s bullshit,” Dante said. He turned his back to face his brothers and sister, who stood behind him. “If I’m going to die—
we’re
going to die—I’d like it to be for a purpose.”

Baarabus understood, he really did, but dissension in the ranks wasn’t good for anything. The demon dog considered the quickest means to an end, and readied his body to pounce. He could kill the kid in less than a heartbeat, fill his always-grumbling belly, and remove the troublemaker, all at the same time. But it didn’t mean that somebody else in the family wouldn’t pick up the torch right behind him.

“We’re working on it,” the dog growled instead, refusing to look them in the eyes.

“He promised that we were going to end this,” the oldest said, as his siblings grumbled in agreement. “But now the poor son of a bitch doesn’t even seem to remember who the fuck he is.”

“This seems like as good of a time as any to make my entrance,” said a familiar voice entering the chamber.

Baarabus watched as the old man, lovingly nicknamed the Fossil, hobbled toward them, his raw and blistered flesh glistening in the light of their lanterns.

“Only caught the tail end of what you said,” the Fossil said to Samson’s oldest, “and I completely understand your concerns, but . . .” He smiled, although there was nothing charming about the look—it was actually kind of disturbing, with his exposed and glistening flesh. “There’s always a
but
, isn’t there? But we don’t have a choice.” He looked at each one of the children. “We really don’t.”

“So you’re saying we should just keep our mouths shut and follow him blindly, even though he doesn’t have a fucking clue as to what he’s doing?”

“I’m saying that we all need to have a little bit of patience,” the old man retorted. He began to pick at specks of blackened skin clinging stubbornly to his wrist. “I believe his story, and I think we just need to wait a bit and see how it plays out.”

“How much longer do you think we have?” Dante asked. “You see how bad it is out there. The clock is ticking. If we’re going to punish anyone, we—”

“See, that’s a question that was being asked even before everything went to shit,” the old man interrupted. “We’ve never known how much time we actually have.”

“So we just wait.”

“It might take a little time, but I think we’re going to be all right. The mission may be a little different now, but it will still happen.”

The Fossil seemed to think about what he had just said, that awful smile slithering across his bloody face again.

“I think the powers that be”—he looked to the cave ceiling as if searching for something there—“or whatever’s still out there guiding this rudderless ship, has just thrown us a bit of a curveball.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” the oldest son of Samson asked.

“Exactly,” the old man said, pointing a long finger at him. “I don’t know, but I want to, and I think we will figure it out in time.”

The children of the Biblical strongman waited for a bit, but when there seemed to be nothing else to say, they began to disperse.

Baarabus padded across the cave chamber toward the Fossil, the smell of his raw, seeping flesh, as always, making the demon dog’s stomach rumble hungrily.

“That was good,” the dog said. “Might even buy us twenty-four hours or so before they come back with the same fucking questions.”

“I’m well aware of that,” the Fossil said.

“So?”

“So, I think it’s time for me to get acquainted with our new old friend.”

The old man rolled up one of his loose-fitting sleeves and began to pick at the fresh batch of scabs that had formed on his arm.

“Maybe I can help him remember.”

•   •   •

Methuselah’s had some back rooms that were rented out for private parties and sensitive business deals.

Phil escorted Francis to one such room. He told him that Methuselah knew nothing of the minotaur’s little side business and wouldn’t appreciate it much if he did. When Francis agreed to keep the info on the down low, Phil left, saying he’d send someone by as soon as possible.

Francis sat at a large round wooden table and looked about the room as he waited impatiently. There was a certain vibe about the place, as if the off-white walls and dark wood floors had somehow absorbed some of the nastiness that had been agreed to there, but also some of the fun times as well. It was a strange, conflicting mood that seemed to flow about the room, and Francis didn’t know whether to plot somebody’s murder or dance on the table with his pants around his ankles.

He didn’t care to have his emotions toyed with, especially now, when they were already raw. He thought of his dying friend back at the Beacon Hill brownstone, and suddenly intense sadness blossomed into full-fledged rage.

But just as quickly as it hit, the fury was defused by the presence of another.

The cloaked figure had simply appeared in the chair across the table from him, his face hidden within the darkness of his hood.

“Oh, somebody’s angry,” the figure spoke, his pale, boney hands moving in circles upon the tabletop in front of him. “I like that. . . . We can work with that.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” Francis said, studying the visitor.

“They never do,” said the man, and then he laughed.

“Your group is that good?”

“You know the answer to that, or you would never have attempted to contact us.”

“Maybe this is a test.”

“A test?”

Francis said nothing, only shifted in his seat to cross his legs. And then became immediately aware that they were even less alone now. Four more shapes seemed to flow out from the corners of the room.

“If this is a test, then let’s get on with it,” the man said, leaning back in his chair, pulling the hood away to reveal the bald head and gaunt face of an old Bone Master. “I don’t like to waste time.”

The pause that followed was filled with an increasing tension, the string of a longbow being slowly pulled back before the arrow releases.

“I think you guys passed with flying colors,” Francis said finally, forcing a smile.

The Bone Master appeared annoyed. “Will there be any more games, or can we get down to business?”

“Business sounds good,” Francis agreed.

“Very well, then.” The Bone Master leaned forward again, placing his spidery white hands flat upon the table. “Who would you like us to kill?”

Again, Francis didn’t answer right away. He didn’t take his eyes from the Bone Master in front of him but could sense others near him, one not too far from the back of his chair.

“Now, that’s a little tricky,” he said slowly, running a fingertip over the grooves in the tabletop. “I believe you’ve already been hired to kill the person I’m interested in talking about.”

The Bone Master cocked his head strangely; it reminded Francis of some great carrion bird, watching—waiting—for its prey to finally die so that it could feast.

“If we have been hired, then the one that you’re interested in has already been dealt with.”

“That’s the thing, though: He hasn’t—and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Francis looked square into the dark eyes of the assassin broker. He did not attempt to hide what he was then, confirming that he, too, was a force to be reckoned with. That he, too, had done his fair share of killing.

The change in the Bone Master’s expression confirmed that the former Guardian’s message was received.

“Ah, I understand now,” the broker said. “You come in support of the Seraphim. The one called Remiel.”

“That’s the one,” Francis acknowledged. “I’d like you to leave him alone.”

The assassin smiled—at least that’s what Francis thought the movement on the demon’s white, chiseled face was supposed to be.

“That isn’t possible.”

“And why is that?”

“A contract was made.”

“And it has yet to be fulfilled.”

“Yet.”

“Yet,” Francis repeated. “So there’s time to work on a new contract.”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Why not?”

“Your kind’s arrogance is irksome,” the Bone Master said. “I’m surprised we’re not contracted to kill more.”

“Ouch,” Francis retorted. “Was that supposed to hurt my feelings?”

“I care nothing for feelings,” the assassin said. “But you, on the other hand . . .”

“I was hoping we could come to some sort of agreement.”

“An agreement has already been made,” the assassin representative stated. “Between myself and the client who retained us to kill your friend.”

The broker began to move his hands in slow circles on the tabletop again. “That is who he is, am I correct?” he asked, his dark eyes twinkling. “Your friend?”

It was Francis’ turn to smile, but it was more like a snarl. “He is much more than that.”

“Then I am sorry for your loss,” the broker said. “But once a contract has been made with the Bone Masters, there is nothing that can break it.”

Francis felt the familiar anger inside him, and he allowed it to surge forward. It had always served him well, keeping him alive on the battlefields of Heaven and on countless assignments as an assassin for the angelic choir, Thrones, and now Lucifer Morningstar. The anger was his friend, a tool as important as the pistol that he drew from within his coat as he stood.

“Have I mentioned that I’ve already killed one of your master assassins today?” Francis aimed the barrel of the golden Pitiless pistol at the Bone Master broker.

He sensed before he saw the other assassins begin to move and was already spinning to deal with the killer behind him when the Bone Master broker spoke.

“Hold.”

The assassins froze, their skeleton weapons drawn.

The broker rose from his chair. “We are done.”

“I thought we were just getting started,” Francis said, his weapon still aimed at the ancient Bone Master.

“Then you are mistaken, fallen angel. What you want is impossible,” the broker said. “All you’ve managed to do is wake the ire of the deadliest of assassins’ guilds.”

“Not the first time,” Francis said. “And I doubt it will be the last.”

“You’ve made an enemy of the Bone Masters this day,” the broker continued. “If there ever comes a time when your name is brought before us for consideration, and it would not surprise me in the least if this was to occur, we will honor that contract without any expectation of payment.”

“You’d do that for me?” Francis asked.

“We eagerly await its happening.”

The Bone Master tugged his hood back up over his bald head, and Francis knew that the broker and his assassins would soon be gone, shifting into nothingness as easily as they had arrived.

He had to make his point before they were gone.

“I had hoped to do this easily,” Francis stated, lowering his pistol. “But it looks like I’m just going to have to kill you all.”

The Bone Masters did not move.

“We’ll remind you what was said when it comes time to snuff out your life,” the broker informed him.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Francis said, sliding the Pitiless back inside his coat. “When it’s time, I’ll tell you myself.”

Frustrated and seething with anger, Francis left the function room, walking the length of the winding, wood-paneled corridor to the back of Methuselah’s bar.

Phil the minotaur was in his seat at the door but stood as Francis approached, winding his way around the empty tables. “How’d it go?”

“Well, I didn’t make any friends.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Phil said.

“No, it isn’t.”

“Told you the Bone Masters were a squirrelly bunch.”

“Yeah, and I tried to be on my best behavior, too.” Francis was taking a smoke from its pack when he realized that Phil was staring at him. “Yeah, I’m full of shit. I know.”

“Sorry about that, Francis,” Phil said, patting him on the back with a large hand while opening the door.

“Not your fault, Phil.”

Francis was about to step out into the stone passage when someone called out from the bar behind him.

“Excuse me,” the voice said, and Francis and Phil turned to see a lone customer sitting on a stool, facing them.

“Can I help you with something, buddy?” Phil asked.

“Not you, him.” The pale-skinned man with the jet-black hair motioned with his chin. “Francis, right?”

Francis and Phil exchanged looks.

The minotaur shrugged. “I have no idea who he is.”

“Do I know you?” Francis asked as he walked back to the bar.

The man smiled and shook his head. “No, we’ve never met,” the man said. He was twisting a silver ring on the ring finger of his right hand. “But I thought I recognized you as you passed. Having some problems with the Bone Masters, are you?”

Francis studied the guy; there didn’t seem to be anything about him that set off alarms. As far as Francis could sense, he was harmless.

“What if I was? What’s that got to do with you?”

“Nothing, really,” the man said. “It’s just that I know some things about them, and I know some things about you. Maybe we can work out some sort of arrangement that would benefit the both of us?”

Francis realized then that if he left Methuselah’s, he would leave with nothing, but now an opportunity had presented itself. What would it hurt to see what the guy had to offer?

“Talk,” Francis said, pulling out the stool beside the guy and sitting down.

“Excellent,” the man said, extending his hand. “It’s a true honor to finally meet you, Francis. My name is Simeon.”

And Francis took his hand.

•   •   •

In that strange state between being awake and asleep, Linda remembered what it had been like when her Nana had died.

She’d been thirteen years old, old enough to feel the weight and sadness of the loss, but also old enough to know that it was for the best, that the poor old woman had been suffering terribly with cancer, and now she would no longer be in pain.

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